CREATIVE PEAKS: Beauty and the Block

By on July 25, 2017

Teton Artlab opens its doors for a woodblock printmaking party.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – For non-visual artists, a “block party” might mean a mid-summer neighborhood potluck. In fact, it took this non-artist a good minute to understand the double entendre in Teton Artlab’s upcoming show. The cornerstone of the evening, and of Teton Artlab at large, is woodblock printing.

In true block party fashion, there will be burgers and hotdogs on the grill for attendees to enjoy. New this weekend, however, is that much of the art for sale Saturday night will be made live, on site. All the large blocks, for example, will be printed at the show. It’s a chance for prospective art buyers to see the artists at work, and to really understand the oft-misunderstood art of printmaking, Artlab founder Travis Walker said.

“Many people in the digital age associate prints with digital prints,” he said. “They don’t actually come from any matrix. Here, people are making things by hand.”

While woodblock prints come from an original etch, a stencil of sorts, each product is unique, like a fingerprint. “It still has a limited-edition feel to it,” Walker said. “Each one’s a little different. They have real value that digital prints do not.”

While printmaking is one of the less understood art forms, it is also perhaps the most accessible to artists and viewers alike. In Teton Artlab’s 10th year, printmaking is still a “big part of what we do,” Walker said. “It’s how we reach out to the community through art.”

To buyers, prints are often more affordable than, say, an original painting. A young art collector might not be able to afford a Katy Fox painting, Walker said, referring to the fellow Artlab artist and painter, but they could likely afford a screen print. “It’s a lot more democratic than painting or sculpture,” Walker said. “It allows a different crowd to purchase art.”

And where paintings and sculptures are full of nuance that can feel “pretty intimidating” to an average viewer, printmaking is straight-forward but still endlessly creative. Artists can print any design they want, on whatever medium they want: T-shirts, canvas, wood blocks, cardboard. “Print-making uses the mind and creativity more than any real drawing ability,” Walker said. “You can go back and forth between different techniques to really take it further… it becomes a lot more personal in a lot of ways.”

Indeed, for Artlab artists like Fox, printmaking is a constant, collaborative process. Fox is a painter by training and by trade, but working in the Artlab is a chance for her to continually explore other mediums and push creative boundaries. “I get really excited about things I don’t know about,” she said. “That’s why I want to have my studio at the Artlab. There’s a community of artists, people better at my craft than I am, so I can continue to grow.

Walker agreed. “We all make work together in the studio, there’s a lot of back-and-forth together. Our work can be enhanced by sharing ideas, techniques, and failures. It really does help you a lot to watch another artist fuck up.” 

As this conversation transpired, for example, Fox was mixing paints into a color that Walker described as molé brown—like the traditional Mexican sauce. Fox couldn’t decide if she liked it, but tested it out on one of Walker’s prints—tree rings with the words “You are here” printed in the center of the trunk. It was a perfect fit.

Of course, it’s also a perk for artists to sell their work. “You can actually make some money selling prints,” Walker said. “That’s incentive too… It’s a lot easier to show an artist love at a $20 price point.”

Saturday’s show features Artlab’s regulars: Walker, Fox, Scotty Craighead, Mike Piggott, Taryn Boals, Claudia Bueno. But Walker is also excited to include visiting artists, new and veteran. Courtney Cederholm offers her fashion design background to T-shirt printing, which the Artlab has never done before. Nick Stonecipher will display his work in the studio for the first time. And for this show, Walker also brought back resident alumnus Claudio Orso and his wife Rian Brown-Orso.

Originally from Torino, Italy, Orso makes “really beautiful politically, socially charged pieces,” Walker said. Orso’s gift is his ability to really tap into whatever community he’s in and understand it “instinctively.” One of his prints, for example, is a critical observation of the way Jackson treats—or mistreats—its Latino community: a man in a stereotypical lucha libre mask, and another man behind him, hand over his mouth, wearing a hat that shows just enough of the words “great” and “again” for the viewer to understand the reference to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan. Another more light-hearted print is simply titled, “Spicy 5, Teton Gringo,” because Orso always orders a spice five level from Thai Plate, and the restaurant’s employees have appropriately dubbed him “Spicy Five.” PJH

Teton Artlab will open its doors to the public 5 p.m. Saturday, July 29 at 130 S. Jackson St. Food and drinks will be served and printmaking happens until 9 p.m. The event is free, but if you want to buy art, Artlab accepts cash, credit cards, local checks, and sometimes canoes. (Walker says he once traded art for a canoe. It seemed like a pretty good deal.)

About Shannon Sollitt

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